Add Magnolias and Michelias to Your Garden

These small trees offer so much more than spring flowers.
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There are more to magnolias than the beautiful pink-flowered deciduous trees that may first come to mind.

In fact, says magnolia enthusiast Sean Hogan, many of the less commonly planted, yet equally fetching varieties, offer bang beyond the bloom.

"There are dozens and dozens of different types so you've got all kinds of flower colors, but you've got all kinds of leaf textures also so they're not just interesting for a month in the spring."

The michelia may or may not be a magnolia, but it's at least a close relative. And there's no debate about the botanical difference, michelias do produce lots more flowers.

"With magnolias, you just get one bud at the very end of the branch.

Michelias bloom all along last season's growth so you get a much longer flowering season."

Michelias are evergreen so you get that winter interest (some of them are hardy to as low as 10 below zero), but you've get different shades. There's a pure white shade that fits right in with winter.

So when the last petal falls off the deciduous magnolia in spring, there are still lots more on most varieties of the often evergreen, fragrant michelia.

There are other differences as well. Many magnolia varieties do well in warmer climates where late frosts can't decimate the blooms. For climatically marginal areas, michelias may offer a beautiful solution.

You also pink and almost red. There's even one that's almost burgundy.

If you have your heart set on a more traditional magnolia, see what's available at your local nursery or garden center. They'll generally have trees and shrubs that do well in your area, even if it's USDA Zone 4.

Magnolia stellata and its close relative Magnolia clovis are the hardiest of any magnolias.

Planted or potted, magnolias like moist, fairly well-drained soil that's slightly acidic. If you're repotting one, try not to rough up the roots as you replant. Minimize root disturbance for all magnolia trees and shrubs. They're finicky about having their fibrous roots damaged and often react to changes by shedding leaves.

Containers allow mobility, so if you expect a hard freeze, move the trees to a safer place such as inside the garage or basement, for example.

Magnolias are relatively unaffected by pests and disease. What will send them into a tailspin, though, is not getting enough water.

Tidbit: Beetles, not bees or butterflies, do most of the pollinating because magnolia flowers don't produce nectar.

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